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Barry Hirstius

Saints Need to Drive The Camaro (Kamara) and Park the Rolls Royce (Peterson)

If you were one of the Saints fans who saw it coming months ago, then give yourself a pat on the back this morning if you realized that New Orleans wasn't going to have enough carries or "touches" to keep all 3 of their star running backs -- starter Mark Ingram, back-up veteran Adrian Peterson, and rookie sensation Alvin Kamara -- happy with their "time share" arrangement in the offensive backfield.

Now since Saints owner Tom Benson made his multi-billionaire fortune as a car salesman, let's use the following analogies so that  I can make my point about where the Saints current RB situation now stands, as of this moment.

Mark Ingram, the team's clear-cut #1 RB since the 2014 season, is like a Ford F-150 Truck. He's the RB that you use for all of the "dirty work" in the "power" running game and to use to "wear down" defenses when the team has a lead.

Alvin Kamara, the team's new RB this year as the 3rd Round pick out of the University of Tennessee, is a brand new shiny red Camaro (yes, "Kamara" even SOUNDS just like "Camaro").

As that new red Camaro, Kamara's the "smooth ride" that you bought for your wife for her birthday, and is the vehicle that EVERYBODY among your friends and family, want to take a ride in.

And for the Saints, Kamara has already become a vitally important player for the team's offense; and has become an integral part in everything that they do --- even splitting out wide as a receiver in passing situations.

That of course, leaves long-time veteran and former League MVP Adrian Peterson.

Peterson is the equivalent of a Rolls Royce; in that he is that luxurious car to take out for a drive every so often, but only for special occasions -- like getting a carry down near the goal line.

Now those motor vehicle analogies aside, I think you see where I'm going with this.

Peterson, for as great as a player that he was, clearly appears to be on the 'downside' of his career. Despite all that was said on the off-season about how "great" he still looked at age 32, the reality is that he has lost a step; and is no longer the player that used to strike fear into the hearts of NFL defenses.

And while it's nice to have him on the roster as "insurance" in case there is a major injury to either Ingram or Kamara (God forbid), it's become pretty evident to anyone with half a brain that Peterson just doesn't "fit" into what the Saints do on offense, scheme-wise.

In my car analogies, you use the truck (Ingram) for work and drive the Camaro (Kamara) for everything else --- and leave the Rolls Royce (Peterson) parked in the garage.

Photo courtesy of Michael DeMocker, The New Orleans Times-Picayune

You didn't to have to be a rocket scientist to have watched this past Sunday's 20-0 win over the Dolphins over in London, England, to have seen how critically important that Kamara has become to the Saints offensive scheme.

Not only does Kamara fill the old role held by former Saints RB's Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles as the team's designated "scat back" catching passes out of the backfield, but he also is fully capable of being a lead / #1 RB if needed to.

It's been noted that head coach Sean Payton has had a "man crush" on Kamara since he saw him back at Tennessee's Pro Day back on March 31st of this year, prior to the 2017 NFL Draft. 

It's the reason why the Saints traded a 2nd Round pick in next year's 2018 Draft to San Francisco; to move up in the 3rd round and select Kamara with the 67th overall pick.

And against Miami, we exactly WHY.

The sensational rookie "stole the show" for New Orleans, while Ingram and Peterson were essentially regulated to "spot duty" --- especially Peterson.

Kamara looked eerily similar to vintage Sproles in the 2011-record breaking Saints season, as he was heavily involved in all facets of the offense; catching 10 passes for 71 yards including a 12-yard TD on a "shovel pass" from QB Drew Brees, to put the game on "ice" midway through the 4th quarter.

He also added 25 yards on five carries, including one carry where he lowered his shoulder and practically ran over a Miami defensive back to set the Saints up for an eventual Wil Lutz field goal.

So with Ingram still the team's clear-cut #1 RB and Kamara taking on an expanded role with each passing week, where does that leave Peterson?

(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

That's hard to say at the moment.

The original plan after the Saints signed Peterson back in late April (ironically right before they drafted Kamara) was to use him to provide a more-than-capable back-up to Ingram; and for him to fill the role that was held down by former back-up RB Tim Hightower --- who left the team in Free-Agency for the 49ers, but was later cut and is no longer in the League.

Once Kamara was drafted a few days later, then the plan was altered so that Brees wouldn't have to "shoulder the load" or burden of responsibility for the team's offense; by utilizing all 3 star RB's and placing more emphasis on the running game this year.

But now 4 weeks into the 2017 season, it's become blatantly obvious --- in fact, so obvious that a blind man can see it from a mile away --- that Kamara is the player that can directly impact games, in the very same way that a player like Peterson USED TO do during his time at Minnesota, as a former 4-time All-Pro and 2012 NFL MVP award winner.

Photo courtesy of The Orlando Sun-Sentinel

Peterson had 4 yards on 4 carries against the Dolphins, and on the season so far has 27 carries for 81 yards in 4 games -- a 3 yards per carry average with no TD's.

"I haven't adjusted yet, but we're winning," Peterson told the media assembled around his locker after the game. "It's the system that they're used to. I just do my part, talking to Mark and AK when I see things they might have missed. I'm just trying to be that leader as of now."

When asked if he was frustrated somewhat about his small share of the Saints RB workload up to this point, Peterson said: "Without a doubt. (But) honestly, I really think things will work themselves out."

Whether things actually will or they won't work out, remains to be seen.

Ingram isn't going anywhere, and Kamara DEFINITELY isn't going anywhere.

Where does that leave Peterson in the "grand scheme" of things?

Would the Saints actually even entertain the idea of trading Peterson (as some observers have suggested) to one of several NFL teams that have lost RB's to injury in the first 4 weeks of the season?

At this point, that would seem unlikely.

But what is known is this: Alvin Kamara is the FUTURE of the Saints offense. And as of this very moment? He's also a big part of the offense CURRENTLY, as well.

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

With 2 straight wins and an apparently wide-open NFC this season, the Saints are more than likely looking at the opportunity later down the line in the next couple of months, to contend for a spot in the Playoffs.

It would be the first time in 4 years that they would have made the Playoffs, if they are fortunate enough to do so.

But in order for that to even happen?

Then it's clear what they should do.

The Saints are going to always need to use the Ford F-150 (Ingram) for work.

But during the rest of the time?

The Saints need to drive the Camaro (Kamara) --- and leave the Rolls Royce (Peterson) parked in the garage............

Saints News Network featured columnist and Big Easy Magazine contributing writer Barry Hirstius is a 52-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and writer previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 45 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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